Photo by Marvin Gentry for USA Today Sports
When breaking down Marshall’s 2017 C-USA Tournament run to the championship game for just the second time in program history, many comparisons can be drawn to the first time the Herd made it to the C-USA Tournament Championship game. Marshall’s first run to the championship game came in 2012 with many of the same similarities as its most recent run. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at these similarities.
The 2011-12 season was one of the most anticipated seasons in Marshall basketball history with expectations through the roof. Although the Herd did not fully live up to those expectations during the regular season, it began to just at the right time. After finishing the 2011-12 season at 18-12 overall and 9-7 in C-USA play, Marshall earned the 6th seed in the C-USA Tournament. The Herd disposed of 11th-seeded SMU in the first round by a final score of 74-56 to earn a quarterfinal showdown with the 3rd-seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane in what would turn out to be a thriller. Marshall and Tulsa had one of the best games in C-USA Tournament history that resulted in a 105-100 win in three overtimes for the Herd to advance to the semifinals to battle the 2nd-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Marshall played very well against the eventual NCAA Tournament-bound Golden Eagles and got a big 73-62 win to advance to the C-USA Tournament Championship game for the first time in program history. But the Herd’s C-USA Tournament run came to an end at that point and the top-seeded Memphis Tigers, playing on their homecourt, were just too much for a Marshall team playing its fourth game in four days. Memphis knocked off the Herd for the third time that season 83-57 to win the C-USA Tournament Championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Despite the loss, Marshall had its best C-USA Tournament run in program history up to that point and took away many positives in the process.
Now flashing forward five years, the Herd had a very similar run in the 2017 C-USA Tournament. Marshall wrapped up its 2016-17 regular season at 17-14 overall and 10-8 in C-USA play. Once again playing as the 6th seed, Marshall had a first round date with the 11th-seeded team in the C-USA Tournament, this time the Florida Atlantic Owls. Much like its first-round matchup in 2012, the Herd got a convincing win this time around and knocked off FAU 89-74 to advance to the quarterfinals. Marshall, much as it did in 2012, had a thrilling quarterfinal matchup with the 3rd-seeded team in the tournament. The Herd won a nail-biter over Old Dominion 64-63 to advance to the semifinals to once again battle the 2nd-seeded team in the tournament, this time the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Much like the 2012 semifinal matchup, Marshall played very well and got an impressive win over the 2nd-seeded team, rolling past LA Tech 93-77 to advance to the C-USA Tournament Championship game.
The similarities continued and in the same case as 2012, the Herd played the C-USA Tournament’s top-seeded team in the championship game in the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. Despite making it a close game mid-way through the second half, Marshall ultimately fell to MTSU 83-72 and the Blue Raiders defeated the Herd for the third time in the same season to win the C-USA Tournament Championship and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The similarities are apparent when breaking down both C-USA Tournament runs and despite coming up just short in both championship games, Marshall’s 2012 and 2017 tournament runs don’t become any less impressive. The Herd will look to build on its breakthrough 2016-17 season and finish the job next season in its quest for the program’s first ever C-USA Championship and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1987.